Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bookviews - January 2015

By Alan Caruba

Happy New Year!

My Picks of the Month

The Rand Corporation is a think tank created after World War II that describes itself as a “research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, health and more prosperous.” It was formed to connect military planning with research and development decisions. A recent study, Blinders, Blunders, and Wars: What America and China Can Learn ($49.95, softcover, was authored by David C. Gompert, Hans Binnendijk, and Bonny Lin. Anyone interested in wars, past, present, and future will find this examination of “eight strategic blunders” and the lessons to be drawn from them will find this book of interest. It looks at Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812, repeated by German military leaders in 1941, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, and other such decisions including the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. It also looks at four cases of warfare that were not blunders. A combination of history and strategic analysis makes this a very interesting book.

When Globalization Fails: The Rise and Fall of Pax Americana by James MacDonald ($27.00. Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a historian and former investment banker, takes a look at the way the U.S. has gone most recently from the number one economy to number two for the first time since well before World War ii. MacDonald concludes that the U.S. is withdrawing from its long role as a protector of the sea lanes and as the global policeman that intervenes to avoid problems from rogue nations. Suffice to say he sees a nation in decline, but he does so as the U.S. has become a major energy power thanks to technology that has unlocked vast quantities of natural gas and oil. For six years the Obama administration has withdrawn from wars in hotspots like Iraq, but is now reversing that policy because the decision led to a worsening situation. As the U.S. comes out of the 2008 financial crisis, its dollar will strengthen and the likelihood is that it will regain its global role, but you will not read that in this otherwise interesting book’s cloudy crystal ball.

If you’re thinking of taking a vacation or business trip this year, pick up a copy of The Savvy Traveler: 175 Ways to Save by Robert B. Diener ($8.99, softcover, $2.99 Kindle, available from The author is the founder of, a hotel booking site, and a frequent guest on CNN, Fox News, and CNBC, as well as a source for publications such as The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and The New York Times. His book is very reader-friendly as he tells you how to find the very best hotel room rates, domestically, and make good travel choices. Its international travel section provides tips on how to handle currency issues, be safe, and find the best deals overseas. All manner of ways to save money from renting cars to selecting a cruise, as well of course finding the best flights for any destination while avoiding fees and other costs. This is the kind of information any traveler would want to know and should acquire before leaving home.

Another book, The Disaster Handbook is by Robert Brown Butler ($15.95, softcover, available from an architect who has penned five other books that were published by McGraw-Hill. This book addresses what to do to prepare your home or workplace for a disaster and do so in advance when it counts. It provides advice on how to be safe when a disaster like a hurricane occurs and how to best repair afterwards. It goes way beyond that, however, describing how to store and use all the foods, tools, and other “calamity commodities” you will need should misfortune come knocking on your door and how to survive with no electricity and pure water. It is packed with practical information and it does so while avoiding scaring the heck out of the reader by providing a lighthearted text that is “user friendly” from beginning to end. This is a “safe, not sorry” book worth reading before a disaster occurs.

There was a time when every parent knew that providing incentives and rewards was an excellent way to guide a child. Teachers, too, used them in the form of gold stars and in some schools they have even eliminated grades. Herbert J. Walberg and Joseph L. Bast have joined together to write Rewards: How to Use Rewards to Help Children Learn—and Why Teachers Don’t Use Them Well ($14.95, The Heartland Institute, softcover). Their book offers research that proves rewards help children learn and the failure to provide them can actually hurt their development. If you don’t know whether you’re doing well or not, why would you try to do better? The elimination of rewards is the result of the progressive ideology that puts the emphasis on self-esteem at the same it eliminates any reason for students to feel confident in a personal achievement that is ignored. Indeed, as the book reveals, students in teachers colleges are no longer being taught to use the rewards that served the many generations of students that preceded the present ones. It’s no secret there is a crisis in our public education systems these days and this book addresses one important reason for it.

There’s fun to be had in PsyQ by Ben Ambridge ($16.00, Penguin Books, softcover) that provides a way to “test yourself with more than 80 quizzes, puzzles, and experiments” designed to reflect everyday life. As you work your way through them, you will better understand yourself as the author, a psychologist, explains how psychology identifies and determines the forces that guide one’s personality, choices, et cetera. Beginning with the famed Rorschach test and moving through scores of other methods psychologists employ, you will become your own psychologist and learn a great deal about this branch of science. For pure fun, there’s Uncle John’s Canoramic Bathroom Reader® ($19.95, Bathroom Reader’s Press, Ashland, OR, softcover) whose 27th edition tips in at a whopping 544 pages that is a collection of the world’s weirdest and most fascinating facts and stories. It has sold more than 15 million copies since its debut in 1988. Whatever your interests, you will find plenty between its covers to interest you and plenty more as you flip through its pages. This is the ultimate trivia book and one that is also wonderfully education and entertaining at the same time.

I have never had any contact with police that was much more than asking for directions, but what happens when it involves something more serious? What should someone say if a police officer stops to ask a few questions? Why does it take so long for most cases to go to trial? How can one help a relative who has been accused of a crime? If these questions interest you, then pick up a copy of Dan Conaway’s Arrested: Battling America’s Criminal Justice System ($19.95, Bascom Hill Publishing Group, softcover.)  As the author makes clear, too many Americans have no idea how dangerous, confusing and frustrating the criminal justice system really is. An attorney for 19 years, he was named one of the Top Ten Attorneys in 2013 by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys. This one of those books that anyone who might have to deal with the system should read.

December was a month filled with news of Islamist attacks from Australia to Pakistan, all quite senseless. For those who want to learn more about Islam, there’s The Handy Islam Answer Book by John Renard. Ph.D., ($21.95, Visible Ink Press, softcover) a professor of theology and scholar of Islam with more than forty years of research and teaching experience. His book takes a scholar’s approach, not offering moral judgments, but it does offer a vast cross-culture understand of Islam in terms of its history, beliefs, symbols, rituals, art and literature, customs, traditions, and ethnic diversity. It is the world second largest religion and this user-friendly guide will answer most questions that anyone might have. Visible Ink Press has a number of these guides and I have been happy to recommend those devoted to history and to science in the past.

Show Biz

For anyone dreaming of going to Hollywood and making a career in films or television, it would be a good idea to read Hollywood War Stories: How to Survive in the Trenches—A Rule Book by Rick Friedberg with contributions by Dick Chudlow ($14.95, softcover, available at This is truly an insider’s look at the industry for anyone thinking about working in it creating and producing music, writing comedy, acting, and other elements of “show biz” Hollywood-style. Friedberg is an award-winning writer/director of movies such as “Spy Hard”, television, “CSI-Miami, the Real Housewives of Orange County”, documentaries, music videos, and television commercials you have likely seen during the Super Bowl or World Series. It is filled with “war stories” and lots of very excellent advice on how to navigate the industry, particularly how it functions behind-the-scenes.  You will learn the do’s and don’ts of dealing with the frustrations and politics that must be addressed in order to have a lasting career. It is a very entertaining as well as educational book.

Coming in February, Black History Month is Black Broadway: African Americans on the Great White Way by six-time Tony Award winning producer and author, Steward F. Lane. He offers an insider’s look at Broadway in a book filled with more than 300 photos ($39.95, Square One Publishers). For anyone who loves Broadway, this book belongs in their library as Lane puts the spotlight on landmark shows such as A Raisin in the Sun, Porgy and Bess, Dreamgirls, The Wiz and many more who gave us an opportunity to enjoy the talents of Ethel Waters, Pearl Bailey, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Pointier, Sammy Davis Jr, who lighted the stage in plays and musicals by August Wilson, Larraine Hansberry, and other greats of the theatre. All your favorite black performers are to be found in this book about the struggles and triumphs on stage of names of those whose talent has made them legends. The book celebrates the playwrights, songwriters, directors, choreographers and designers who changed the American theatre and around the world. This is great history from minstrel shows to vaudeville, from the jazz age to the golden age of the American musical. This is not just black history, but American history.

Getting Down to Business Books

One of the most entertaining business books is Mitzi Perdue’s book about her husband, Frank Perdue, the man behind the chicken empire. Tough Man, Tender Chicken: Business & Life Lessons from Frank Perdue ($20.00, Significance tells how a father and son business, thanks to Frank Perdue’s ethics and ambition, grew into a business employing 19,000 men and women, selling its products in a hundred different countries. For the business school student or future entrepreneur, this book will prove invaluable because it spells out what took young Frank in the 1950s selling chickens in the way the industry had done to the development of a whole new way of reaching out to the consumer. The book offers lessons from the way Perdue conducted his life and his business that are invaluable for success. They start with being honest always, treating everyone with respect and courtesy, and remembering to laugh, have fun, but knowing that hard work can be satisfying and fulfilling. I recommend this book for its timeless lessons and its story of a remarkable man.

More than three million small businesses have decided to go without employer-provided insurance because of the cost. The co-author, Rick Lindquest, of The End of Employer-Provided Health Insurance: Why It’s Good for You, Your Family, and Your company, ($24.00, Wiley) written with Paul Zane Pilzer, says “It no longer makes financial, legal, or social sense for any U.S. employer to continue providing health insurance to its employees.” Since 2000, the percentage of Americans covered by employer-provided health insurance has declined annually. The authors argue that the Affordable Care Act has made it easier and cheaper for most individuals to buy their own insurance and therein lies the flaw to this book. What many have discovered is that the ACA premiums are higher than expected as are its deductibles. It even penalizes companies who fail to sign up if they have a higher than specified number, causing many already to have put employees on a part-time basis and to not employ more. The authors note that some businesses will replace their group policy with a defined contribution plan that offers a stipend to employees to buy health insurance. This book will help the reader understand the problems that the ACA has created, but you would be advised to read “around” it and to understand ObamaCare is at risk of being revised by Congress or even repealed at some point. Nobody seems to like it much.

In a similar fashion Surviving the Medical Meltdown: Your Guide to Living Through the Disaster of Obamacare by Dr. Lee Hieb, MD ($17.95, WMD Books, softcover) is testimony to the fact that government health care anywhere in the world has never been as good as they provided by the free market. This book is a guide to prepare you and your family to prevent and deal with a multitude of medical issues, from finding doctors during a shortage to tips for dealing with everything from rashes to fevers to fractures and chest pain at home. Dr. Heib is a past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. His book explores what ObamaCare will and won’t cover, which medications you should stockpile, and tips to maintain your health so you won’t need a doctor. If you or your family members are at risk for hereditary illnesses, this is must reading, but it is also must reading in order to prepare for the problems the Affordable Patient Care Act has created.
Due out in February, The Job Pirate by Brandon Christopher ($16.95, Bleeding Heart Publications, softcover) is a funny, irreverent, first-person account of the author’s journey through the American job market that some are calling a workplace “survival guide” for Gen-X and Millennials. Christopher writes of some two dozen “crappy” jobs out of the eighty-two he has worked over the last twenty years. Some are hilarious and some are absurd. He writes with wit and intelligence as he offers a look at the lighter and darker sides of humanity in the workplace. It is a compassionate look at the lives of the many people we encounter anonymously every day. As Christopher says, “Knowing the score is half the battle. Once you realize that this is no longer your Day’s America, it becomes easier to survive it. Much about the employment scene has changed and this book is an excellent introduction to the new realities.

In Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life ($16.99, Adams Media, softcover) Nancy D. O’Reilly, a clinical psychologist brings her knowledge and experience interviewing successful women for the past seven years to the pages of a book that encourages women to “claim power and respect, conquer your internal barriers, and change the world by helping other women do the same.” This book is a new addition to a genre of similar books intended to help women who enter the male-dominated world of business and to break free of limits that can impose. Studies have shown that companies in which women have risen to be CEOs and on the boards actually do better than those who do not. This book synthesizes the experiences and the advice of women who have achieve success and will no doubt help any woman, especially the younger ones entering the workplace, to find their own success.

Once you have found success and worked hard, the next hurdle to master is retirement. What To Do to Retire Successfully: Navigating Psychological, Financial and Lifestyle Hurdles ($15.95, New Horizon Press, softcover) by Martin B. Goldstein is due out in February. Seventy-seven million baby boomers are slated to retire over the next twenty years, about 10,000 daily, and the author, a physician whose clinical practices specialized in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental disorders, is happily retired and wants you to be as well. Many planning on retiring have been hard hit by the recent economic recession and a very slowly improving economy. The plans they made have been disrupted. Everyone worries that they may not have enough funds to maintain their lifestyle. If that description fits you or someone in your family, this book will likely prove very helpful for them, at any point in their life, to make the right decisions about the rest of it. The budget bill that Congress passed in mid-December has changed the status of pensions, allowing the payout to be altered. If you have such a pension you should look into this because many pensioners are likely to find they will receive less in the years ahead.

Your Mental Health

Life is filled with problems and how we deal with them determines how we can achieve peace of mind. How to Survive: The Extraordinary Resilience of Ordinary People ($14.95, Think Piece Publishing, softcover) by Andy Steiner offers a number of inspiring recovery stories as well as resources to help people get through difficult times. There’s a lot of practical wisdom in this book by a writer with some impressive credits to her name, included Self, Glamour and Fitness, to name just a few publications in which her work has appear. You will learn how the people in the book overcame a massive heart attack, bankruptcy, the death of a spouse, the suicide of a family member, and other challenges. For anyone passing through a comparable situation, this will be a welcome book to read. In a similar way, Overcoming Shock: Healing the Traumatized Mind and Heart by Diane Zimberoff and David Hartman ($15.95, New Horizon Press, softcover) tells us that a serious trauma is experienced by 7.7 million adults nationwide and millions more worldwide annually. It can be a threatening illness, the sudden death of a loved one, or a terrorist act like the Boston Marathon bombing. It causes people to mentally and physically shut down. This book provides proven strategies, techniques and tools for successful treatment and provides real-life stories of people who successfully overcame the debilitating effects and post-traumatic ramifications of shock and trauma. Ms. Zimeroff is a licensed marriage and family therapist and Hartman is a clinical social worker who specializes in trauma resolution.

All of us encounter anxiety in some fashion in our lives and Dr. Margaret Wehrenberg has written The Ten Best Anxiety Busters: Simple Strategies to Take Control of Your Worry ($13.95, W.W. Norton, softcover) that will help the reader address and overcome any one of a wide range of often common fears. From fear of flying to not like being in a confined space like an elevator, whether the anxiety is minor or a more serious panic disorder, the good news is that one can address and overcome it. The author, a doctor of psychology, has provided ten simple techniques that include breathing exercises and relaxation practices, as well as how to effectively talk to yourself, among other ways to rid yourself of anxieties, large and small, that interfere with enjoying your life. And then there’s Guilt, Shame and Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming Negative Emotions by Dr. Peter R. Breggin ($19.00, Prometheus Books, softcover) who has devoted decades to leading successful efforts to reform the mental health field and promote empathic therapies. His work has provided the foundation for modern criticism of psychiatric drugs and diagnoses. His latest book offers the first unified theory of guilt, shame, and anxiety, showing how these emotions eventually become self-defeating and demoralizing. He guides the reader through the “Three Steps to Emotional Freedom” and for anyone whose life is being diminished by negative emotions, this book will surely open doors to a far better one.

I would particularly recommend Change Your Mind, Change Your Health: 7 Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain to Achieve True Well-Being by Anne Marie Ludovici, ($15.99, Career Press, softcover) a noted behavioral health consultant. Americans are overwhelmed daily by all kinds of advice on how to avoid heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer, all leading causes of preventable death, but as often as not, they don’t make the changes necessary to ensure good health. The author notes that nearly 80 million Americans are deemed obese or overweight and smokers often take up to seven or more tries to actually stop. Her new book offers proven, evidence-based behavioral tools for “achieving a self-assured and sustainable sense of health and well-being in the face of all obstacles or challenges.” If you are experiencing a struggle to take up good habits and break bad ones, this book will prove very helpful.

If you or someone you know is the parent of a child with autism, Living Autism Day By Day: Daily reflections and Strategies to Give You Hope and Courage ($23.00. Freedom Abound, softcover) by Pamela Bryson-Weaver will provide some valuable insight on how to cope and what to do. The author has three children with special needs. John, her youngest, has autism and Joshua, the oldest, has Tourette’s and ADHD. That set her on a journey from being “just a mom” to becoming an expert on these conditions. Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a multiplex of development disabilities. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one in fifty children in the U.S. has autism. Her book tells what information and help is available for the services and professionals who provide it, what to believe and dismiss regarding what one will hear about autism, and what types of feelings, emotions, and issue you will deal with on a personal level as a parent or caregiver. The book has received a great deal of praise from professionals and parenting experts.

For the beautiful women in the world, there’s a book especially for them. The Beautiful Woman Syndrome and the Invisible Man by Jake Kelly ($13.35/$14.95, softcover and Kindle, available from explores his hypothesis that they have more frequent encounters with me because, while they wanted comfort, nurturing and caring, the men wanted sex. “They universally complained of frequent, successive encounters ending with sex and then rejection. They felt it was their fault; that they weren’t loveable; that they always fell for the wrong guy when what they wanted was a good guy. For those women experiencing this syndrome, Kelly has written a book on how to spot a “hit man”, the type who’s only interested in adding one more sexual conquest, how develop the ability to spot this type and avoid the unhappiness that comes with them. The “invisible man” is basically a good guy and there are plenty of them. I have known a few beautiful women in my life and can confirm that this book offers some excellent advice to them.

Kid Stuff

Only received one book for the kids, but it is well worth recommending. It is Birdology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Birds by Monica Russo with photos by Kevin Byron ($15.95, Chicago Review Press, softcover). Aimed at ages 7 and up this older reader found it fascinating. I have no doubt that a grade-schooler would as well thanks to its interesting text, brief and fact-filled on each page, and for its many wonderful full color photos of all manner of species. The activities it suggests are easy enough for any young reader to undertake, but the focus here is on observing the great diversity and beauty that exists among many bird species. It treats the reader with respect and in addition to information about migration, nesting, food, territories, conservation, and other bird facts, it provides “Bird Words”, a useful glossary as well as common and scientific names, plus resources on the Internet that will provide more information for the curious. I would not be surprised that this book produces some ornithologists in the future.

Novels, Novels, Novels

A taunt, fast-moving thriller with a historical context is found in Patricia Gussin’s After the Fall ($26.95, Oceanview Publishing). Laura Nelson’s career as a surgeon has ended due to a tragic accident, but has led to her accepting a position as vice president of research for a large pharmaceutical company. As she works to finalize approval of the company’s groundbreaking new drug, Jake Harter, a malicious Food and Drug Administration employee is working to stop the approval because he is obsessed with Adawia Abdul, the beautiful Iraqi scientist who discovered the drug. He does not want her to have any reason to return home to replace her dying father in Saddam Hussein’s bioweapons program. A number of forces are a work as Hussein’s henchmen apply pressure to assure her return and, if Laura Nelson gets in his way, he will eliminate her as he has her predecessor, and his own wife. The novel has an added sense of reality due to the fact that the author has practiced medical research and been an executive with a leading healthcare company. Her first novel, “Shadow of Death”, was nominated as the best first novel by International Thriller Writers. This sixth novel is bound to attract awards and is the fourth and final novel in her Laura Nelson series.

The Widow Tree by Nicole Lundrigan ($22.95, Douglas & McIntrye, softcover) is set in the 1950’s post-war Yugoslavia and marks a departure from her previous four novels. When three childhood friends find a long-lost stash of Roman coins it precipitates the unraveling of their relationships as they argue over what to do with their new found wealth. Nevena insists it should be turned over to authorities as the coins belong to the country. Janos wants to keep them and Dorjan walks the line between the two. The decision to conceal their discovery turns disastrous when Janos disappears. This is a compelling, richly layered story of silent betrayals in a tightly knit village where the post-war air is simultaneously flush with hope and weighted with suspicion. Amidst an intricate web of cultural tensions, government control, family bonds and past mistakes, the truth behind many closely held secrets is revealed with life-altering consequences. The author is a masterful storyteller and this one is more than a notch above most novels. World War Two serves as the backdrop for Sprouting Wings by Henry Faulkner ($17.99, Two Harbors, softcover) in which Alan Ericsson begins his journey to become a Navy pilot prior to the U.S. getting into the war. The novel expertly weaves together adventure, love, and historical fact to take the reader back to those days in the early 1940s as it showcases the difficulties of daily life for American military men and women. This is the first of a series of five novels that will follow the protagonist from rookie pilot to a respected member of a squadron. Another perspective will be seen in Alan’s wife, Jennifer, who works for the Office of Naval Intelligence and transfers to Pearl Harbor in August 1941. It would be attacked in December. For anyone wondering what life was like in those days and who also enjoys reading about aviation, this novel will prove a treat.

If You Needed Me by Lee Lowrey ($22.94, iUniverse, hardcover, $14.98 softcover and $3.99 Kindle) is a compelling narrative of loss, loyalty and love drawn from the real life of Ms. Lowry. When Jenny Longworth offers aid and comfort to her former college sweetheart David Perry who had recently lost his French wife to cancer, their youthful passion is reignited, creating a gauntlet of social and moral conflicts arising from the disapproval of friends and family when she uproots her life in Boston and moves to Europe to console David while he attempts to put his life back together. Most of his friends welcome her but some view her with hostility. And David’s children, Mark and Delphine, react to Jenny’s presence with confusion and ambivalence. It should not surprise the reader to learn that Lee Lowrey gave up a successful career in Boston and moved to Europe to help an ex-lover cope with his grief becoming in time an expatriate, second wife, and step-parent. 

For those who enjoy a psychological thriller, they will find one in The Blue Journal by L.T. Graham ($15.95, Seventh Street Books, softcover). When one of Randi Conway’s psychotherapy patients is found dead of a gunshot wound, the investigation is turned over to Lieutenant Anthony Walker, a former New York City cop now serving on the police force of an affluent community in Fairfield County, Connecticut. He lives among the privileged gentry, but knows from experience that appearance often hide reality. This is certainly true of Elizabeth Knoebel. When Walker finds her private journal entitled “Sexual Rites” it is clear she has been recording the explicit details of her sexual adventures with various men, many of whom are married to the women in her therapy group. She was a sexual predator and Walker believes that the killer is another of Randi Conway’s patients. You will find it hard to put this novel down. L.T. Graham is the pen name of a New England-based suspense writer who is the author of several novels and readers will look forward to the next one featuring Detective Anthony Walker.

Michael McCarthy is widely read in conservative circles and has authored  a novel, The Rainbow Option ($13.50, 30 Cubits Press, softcover) a sequel to “The Noah Option” both of which look to a very different, future America when people struggle to survive under a flood of government oppression. It is a nation in which gangs stalk the streets and are ruled by petty tyrants. If that seems to come out of recent headlines of gangs of people shouting “Kill the Police” then you have a sense of the future in McCarthy’s second novel when economic collapse and tyranny is everywhere. The novel features software genius Isaiah Mercury and a brilliant botanist Grace Washington who lead the underground resistance people by those who have fled to refuges called “Arks” after Noah’s Ark. When the government unleashes a deadly virus against its own citizens, Grace and Isaiah race to develop a cure before millions die.  It is a fast-paced tale that will hold your attention and make you think about the future.

That’s it for January!  Tell your book-loving family, friends and coworkers about, a report that tells you about books you may not read about anywhere else, but are sure to enjoy depending on your interests.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Bookviews - December 2014

By Alan Caruba

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

My Picks of the Month

Not long ago I read a book that predicted the decline of America as a world power. The author, a historian, made his case, but I was not convinced and, after reading Peter Zeihan’s new book, The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder ($28.00, Twelve) I am encouraged to believe his hypothesis that America, by virtue of its geographic location and its tradition of welcoming and assimilating people who want freedom and liberty, will emerge safely from a period of disorder he sees ahead for the world. The entire book depends on his prediction of global disorder that will occur between 2015 and 2030. It seems to me that the world is always in some stage of disorder, but I agree that America’s unique location with two great oceans on its coasts and two allies, Canada and Mexico, north and south of us, plus our maritime and military superiority, bodes well for its future. Thanks to “fracking” we are going to be energy independent and we are the nation others send their money to keep it safe. Our agricultural sector is powerful as well. Zeihan writes of a future in which the world order in which the U.S. has provided since the end of WWII will be withdrawn. I find it hard to believe it will cease to ensure protection of the sea lanes vital to trade thanks to energy independence and the cost of ensuring world order—the absence of wars. The best that can be said is that reading his book provides a valuable insight to the way geography, location, determines in great part the history and the future of nations with whom we share this planet.

Another book takes a look at America in terms of its superpower status with a particular emphasis between it and Russia, the former Soviet Union with whom the U.S. had a long Cold War. By Marin Katusa, it is titled The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp ($29.95, Wiley and Casey Research).  It would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in and concerned about the future as we watch our influence and power drain away under the leadership of a President who has steadily worked to isolate the nation and withdraw from playing a role in international affairs. Katusa spells out why Russia’s Vladimir Putin has demonstrated a far greater grasp of geopolitical affairs than our President and what they means for ours and the world’s future. Russia has a wealth of energy reserves, coal, oil, and natural gas, much as the U.S. has, but the U.S. government has, for decades, suppressed its growth while the new Russian Federation under Putin’s leadership is expanding it. This book is so full of facts and insights regarding what is going on in the world’s energy sector that it is virtually essential to read it in order to understand what is happening and what may happen.

Alex Epstein makes The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels as the author of his book of the same name ($27.95, Penguin Random House), providing a world of facts about coal, oil and natural gas that destroys all the blather about “renewable” energy, wind and solar. The latter are unreliable and expensive. Nations that have spent a lot of money on them have also discovered that their electric bills soared while, at the same time, they had to maintain plants fueled by fossil fuels to back up the “Green” energy “farms.” Despite all the criticism fossil fuels have received, their emissions represent no threat to the environment because carbon dioxide plays virtually no role to influence the weather or climate. While it has increased in the atmosphere, the Earth has been in a cooling cycle for the past 19 years! Moreover, fossil fuels exist in abundance around the world despite claims we will run out of them. The current fracking boom in natural gas and oil will make the U.S. energy independent with no need to depend on expensive imported fossil fuels. The point Epstein makes is that fossil fuels have transformed our human life, freeing humanity from its dependence on muscle power while transforming agriculture and bringing about an industrial revolution that has extended human life while enhancing it with the power to live in comfort and travel with ease.

I would also recommend reading Anthony Bright-Paul’s excellent Climate for the Layman ($19.50, available via, softcover) which provides understanding and insights regarding the Earth’s climate in a way that a reader, with or without any knowledge of the science, can easily comprehend and enjoy. At a time when the UN has created a “Climate Fund” to redistribute billions from industrialized nations to those who have failed to take the steps to develop (often due to corrupt leaders) everyone needs to know what really constitutes the Earth’s climate and to grasp that it is the result of vast, powerful forces beyond anything humanity does. Our use of fossil fuels, for example, does not cause “global warming” and, indeed, the Earth is in a 19-year cooling cycle that reflects the Sun’s reduction in the amount of radiation it is producing, itself a natural cycle. The science is virtually self-evident. As the author says, “Once we accept that the Sun warms the Earth—that is to say the surfaces of this Planet—and that the surfaces warm the atmosphere by 'thermal contact' (1st law of thermodynamics) then we can see that all the arguments about carbon dioxide 'causing' warming of the atmosphere—trumpeted in so many of the Warmist websites—are irrelevant.” This book is distinguished by the author’s clarity and easy comprehension. I guarantee it will make you the smartest person in the room with the topic of climate comes up!

One of the greatest economists of our time was Dr. Milton Friedman, a 1976 Nobel Prize winner who taught at the University of Chicago for more than three decades. He was an advocate of the free market and known for his research on consumption analysis and monetary history and theory. Friedman died in 2006. My friend, Ben A. Cerruti, has worked in several aspects of our economy and has been active for two decades addressing various ballot issues in San Francisco. His website, is always worth visiting. “It did not enter my mind at the time that writing my first letter to Milton Friedman in March 1992 would lead to continuing correspondence for over a decade.” Though Cerruti had been a registered representative for a major New York Stock Exchange firm and had received a BSEE degree from the University of California at Berkeley, he “had never attended a single class on the key subject of economics either in college or high school.” He had questions about the Federal Reserve and other related issues so he wrote to Dr. Friedman and he generously responded to Cerruti’s questions and thoughts. The happy result is Dear Milton Friedman: A Decade of Lessons from an Economics Master ($14.94, softcover, available from, Barnes and Noble and LULU), a collection of their exchange of letters. If economics is a mystery to you, I recommend reading this book. Friedman’s responses are an education in themselves. If you have wondered what makes capitalism different from socialism and why it has proven itself better at creating wealth anywhere it has been adopted, pick up What Adam Smith Knew: Moral Lessons on Capitalism from its Greatest Champions and Fiercest Opponents ($16.95, Encounter Books, softcover), edited and introduced by James R. Otteson.) We live in times in which even Communist China retains its political system, but has adopted capitalism and has, in three decades, risen to become a global economic power, For former Soviet Union failed because of its Communist economic system, but now competes as a major power in the energy marketplace. This book contains essays and excerpts by some of the top thinker on this important subject.

For anyone eho is concerned about identity theft  resulting from the vast hacking operations that acquire all manner of information about people, then I strong recommend you read Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime—From Global Epidemic to Your Front Door by cybersecurity expert, Brian Krebs ($24.99, Sourcebooks). You will learn about the criminal masterminds behnd some of the largest spam and hacker operations who are targeting you and your bank account. I am frankly surprised this book has not generated more coverage in the mainstream press and on TV news channels and other programs. Spam costs the U.S. an estimated $40 billion a year and 85% of products purchased through span are bought by your fellow Americans. These are operations that can take control of your computer to blast out spam and viruses to your contacts, can infiltrate your inbox through malware embedded in emails and can harvest usernames, passwords, online banking credentials, and other personal information. It can lock you out of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. It can sell your account information on the digital black market. This may be the most important book you read this month.

As you might imagine, I think books make great gifts and some are ideally suited to become personal heirlooms that remains a part of the lives of those receiving them. I could not help but think this when I saw two of the latest books from the Folio Society, London. This publisher offers fiction and non-fiction classics with special attention to producing a handsome looking, beautifully illustrated book. For boys this year, a new edition of Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson ($84.95) is available and for girls there’s Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women ($74.99). A visit to Folio Society’s website will excite anyone who has a deep love of books and wants to pass it on to a child or friend, or add to one’s personal library. For nearly seventy years the Folio Society has been devoted to publishing books that are individual works of art; the kind that are passed on from generation to generation. There’s even a Folio 2015 Diary at $24.95 to keep track of important dates and events in the year ahead.

Every year for as long as I can recall, this is the month I recommend the latest annual edition of the World Almanac® and Book of Facts and 2015 is no exception ($13.99, softcover). Now available, it features the top ten news topics of 2014 as well as offbeat news stories that are entertaining. The editors chose the most controversial franchise sports team owners for the new edition and have included some useful health care statistics among its encyclopedic collection of data. The results of the 2014 midterm elections are also included. You are sure to enjoy sections such as “The World at a Glance” and “Time Capsule” which make their return. I know we’re all inclined to Google answers these days, but the World Almanac® and Book of Facts is a treasure of information at your fingertips that is always a good idea to keep handy.

Islam Examined

In September 2005, Fleming Rose, the editor of the Danish newspaper, Jyl-lands-Posten, commissioned and published a number of cartoons about Islam, prompted by his perceptions of self-censorship by the European media. One of the cartoons, by the artist Kurt Westergaard, depicted Mohammad wearing a bomb in his turban. Muslims are forbidden to depict their prophet in any fashion and the cartoon set off a violent international uproar in which Danish embassies were attack and 200 deaths were attributed to the protests. The story of that event is told by Rose in The Tyranny of Silence: How One Cartoon Ignited a Global Debate on the Future of Free Speech ($24.95, Cato Institute). “My personal view is that Americans are right,” he says in the first chapter. “Freedom and tolerance are, to me, two sides of the same coin, and both are under pressure.” Rose, who had worked in the former Soviet Union, understood how numbing the suppression of criticism and the squelching of free speech can be. “Taking offense has never been easier” says Rose and he believes it has become excessive. As a working journalist, he sees threats to free speech and the intimidation of reporters on the rise in Europe. Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank and its books are always stimulating on often on the cutting edge of events and issues.

Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism by Karima Bennoune ($16.95, W.W. Norton, softcover) demonstrates that, within Islam, there are many who find the Islamists as great an enemy as non-Muslims who feel threatened. The author is an international human rights lawyer, professor and activist who recalls the night that, during the Algerian “dark decade” of fundamentalist violence in the 1990s, banged on the door of her family’s home when she was a young girl. Her father was a professor who was an outspoken critic of both the Algerian government and the fundamentalists who opposed it. She grabbed a knife to protect him, but those banging on the door went away. For their safety they would leave their Algeria. Her book chronicles the lives of those who resisted the extremism despite direct threats at home and Western indifference from abroad. She interviewed 286 people of Muslim heritage from 26 nations. Their tales from the battle for tolerance, equality, and freedom are stunning and inspiring.  These are people whose homes and workplaces were hit by bombs, who lost friends, family and coworkers to the extremists. It is well worth reading.
There are 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide and many are decent, good people, but their silence encourages a faction of fanatical Islamism that is killing people with the intention of imposing Islam by terror on the world. James E. Horn is a retired U.S. diplomat who spent a decade in the Middle East and saw Islam up close. He has written Moslem Men Fear Women: Islam is Toxic for Females ($15.19, softcover, available from that spells out how Islam confirms a virtual slave status on women, citing the Koran and other sources. You will learn about “honor killings” and other practices that will likely cause you to ask why this aspect of Islam is not better known. He wrote it as a warning to non-Muslim women who are considering marrying into the faith. It is quite stark and quite accurate.

Reading History

If I had to recommend a single book on the history of the United States I would unhesitatingly recommend A Patriot’s History of the United States by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen. Its 10th anniversary edition has been published by Sentinel, an imprint of the Penguin Group of books ($25.00) and is 981 pages long. A softcover, it is a thick volume, but that just means it is filled with the kind of information you may not find in other histories that bring biases to bear on their interpretation of the nation’s great figures and the principles that created and sustained it. There is no question that America is truly exceptional, starting with the fact that we have the longest operative constitution of any other nation. The book does not shy from aspects of our history such as slavery, but puts it in the context of its times and reveals that many of the Founding Fathers wanted to abolish it, but could not because they needed the southern colonies to sign on to the creation of the nation. All the high spots of our history are there to be enjoyed. One can only express wonder, astonishment, and pride in the men who put their lives on the line for the idea of freedom, liberty, and a nation of laws.

A Christmas Far from Home: An Epic Tale of Courage and Survival During the Korean War is told by Stanley Weintraub ($26.95, Da Capo Press), a noted historian who has authored more than fifty books of history and biography, including Pearl Harbor Christmas. Anyone who enjoys reading history will find this a timely Christmas gift. He takes the reader back to just before Thanksgiving in 1950, five months into the Korean War, often called the forgotten war. Weintraub was an Army officer in the Korean War so he brings a personal knowledge of the daily challenges the U.S. servicemen faced. Indeed, what they faced in addition to the frigid winter was a numerically overwhelming and determined enemy. General MacArthur believed he could bring the war to a quick end but his strategy nearly resulted in disaster. The U.S. troops had pushed swiftly to the Yalu River with what seemed little resistance. On the other side of the river, however, were the forces of Red China and when they began to pour into North Korea that forced a long march to the coast in an escape led by Marines. It did not end until the last American servicemen were able to board a ship and weigh anchor on Christmas Eve. Ultimately the war would be a stalemate for an America that had won World War Two not long before. A ceasefire exists to this day. That 1950 December was filled with drama and great courage that makes for great reading.

One of the lesser known figures in the history of World War II was Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Treasury as well as a longtime personal friend of his. Peter Moreira has written a book about Morgenthau’s extraordinary contribution to the war effort by raising the billions needed to arm our military to fight the Nazis as well as the Japanese Empire. In The Jew Who Defeated Hitler: Henry Morgenthau Jr., FDR, and How We Won the War ($25.00, Prometheus Books) Moreira has written a biography that tells the story of his achievement during that challenge to freedom and the Nazi’s accompanying campaign of genocide. At a time when there was considerable anti-Semitism in America, Morgenthau, a Jew, was in a position to do what he could to respond to the Nazi challenge and that posed by the Japanese. What he did was mastermind a savings bond program that raised the millions needed to arm the American military, building the aircraft, tanks, and all other elements of battle. The author admits the title of the book is an over-statement, but it does point to the fact that Morgenthau was the right man in the right place at the right time. Ironically, he was a college dropout who gave little indication initially of his skills and his accomplishments, but he was widely recognized as a man of integrity who ensured the Department of Treasury was run with the highest standards of ethics and integrity. Anyone who is interested in this dramatic era of our history will find this book fills in a largely overlooked aspect of it, the way Americans bankrolled our military and aided our allies to resist the Nazis. In the wake of the Holocaust, the anti-Semitism did not entirely cease, but it did fade considerably from American life.


Adopting a child is a good option, but Mary Ostyn thinks the better prepared a woman is can make the process easier. That’s why she wrote Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting ($16.99, Thomas Nelson, softcover). She married her high school sweetheart at age 19 and together they had four children by their eighth anniversary. Three years later they became aware of the needs of orphans all over the world and, in time, they adopted two boys from Korea and four girls from Ethiopia. In addition to her accounts of the experience she offers a range of advice that make adoption easier for everyone involved, citing the best reason to adopt—because you want to parent a child—to all the adjustments you should anticipate. The book has a religious orientation; Thomas Nelson is a Christian publisher, but the experiences she shares are well worth learning about. Coming in January is Adopting Older Children: A Practical Guide to Adopting and Parenting Children Over Age Four ($15.95, New Horizon Press, softcover) by Stephanie Bosco-Ruggiero, MA, a communications and research assistant for the National Center for Social Work, Gloria Russo-Wassell LMHC, a certified counselor and doctoral candidate in educational and development psychology, and Victor Gorza, Ph.D., LISW-S, a professor of Social Work at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. With all those degrees between them they have collaborated to help anyone thinking about adopting one of the 200,000 children in the U.S. and more worldwide hoping to become part of a family. The book highlights the most significant challenges facing an older child including mental health, behavioral, and educational issues. The older adopted child may be coping with grief and a range of problems. The guide begins with advice on initiating the adoption process, explains the difference between infant and older child adoption, some of the obstacles one might encounter, and a full range of other advice to facilitate and respond to the entire process.

Just Be A Dad: Things My Father Never Told Me by George Cave, Ph.D. ($28.00, Tignor Publishing) is one of those books any man who is on the brink of being a first time father should read as well as one to help any man who is already experiencing fatherhood. It is filled with a richness of wisdom and reality. Dr. Cave begins with the view that it is impossible to be a good father if he is not a good husband. Thus, the model the father sets and his relationship with the mother is what their children learn is appropriate. A longtime psychologist, the author has great faith in the profession to help those who turn to psychotherapy to solve problems. It helped him mend his relationship with a former wife and to have a good relationship with their children and those she had in her new marriage. “Being a good father can be the most challenging thing a man will ever do,” says Dr. Cave and he believes it is critical to the kind of person his children will become. His book is filled with advice a new father might not get from others and all in one place between a front and back cover.

Our Furry Friends

For the cat lover in your life, there’s the classic The Fur Person by May Sarton ($13.95, W.W. Norton, softcover), an acclaimed poet, novelist, and memoirist who passed away in 1995. She tells the enchanting story of Tom Jones, a fearless independent Cat Around Town who, growing tired of his vagabond lifestyle decided that he should move in with Sarton and her companion in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There’s a reason this book continues to be published. It’s just so much fun to read!

For dog lovers, there’s Judy: The Unforgettable Story of a Dog Who Went to War and Became a True Hero by Danien Lewis ($24.99, Quercus). Judy gained fame as the only animal POW of World War II. An English Pointer, she was fearless and loyal, dragging men from the wreakage of a torpedoed ship, scavenging food to help feed the starving inmates of a hellish Japanese POW camp, or just by bringing hope to men living through the war’s darkest days. She was adored by the British, Australian, American and other Allied servicemen who fought alongside her. Boring in Shanghai, China, she soon became the mascot for a gunboat called the HMS Gnat. When the war brought out the ship was transferred to Singapore. She was invaluable for her ability to warn of Japanese air attacks long before the warplanes became visible or audible to the British crew. Based on interviews with the few living veterans who knew her and extensive archival research, her story will inspire any reader who loves our canine friends.

People Books

The Navy SEALS have been in the news of late, but little has been known of its beginning until Patrick K. O’Donnell wrote First SEALS: The Untold Story of the Forging of America’s Most Elite Unit ($25.99, Da Capo Press). Credited with some of the most perilous missions in the history of the Armed Forces, SEALS are the stuff of Hollywood films and now you can read about the real-life heroes who composed the group’s origins/ They include Jack Taylor, now a California dentist, Sterling Hayden who became a Hollywood star, and others. The SEAL acronym stands for Sea, Air, and Land , known as a maritime unit, the first swimmer commandos and warrior spies who were decades ahead of their time when they created the tactics, technology and philosophy that inspires today’s generation of SEALs. You will be inspired as well when you read this book.

A very different story is told  in Into the Black: The Inside Story of Metallica (1991-2014) by Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood ($26.99, Da Capo Press). For the band, 1991 was a big milestone, its ten-year anniversary. In the years that followed, the group would battle criticism from the media, hits on its image as the leading “pop metal” band, and shaky rapport with the public that had brought it to fame. Last year Da Capo Press published volume one of the author’s two-part Metallica biography, “Birth School Metallica Death”, that chronicled the first decade. This volume delves deeper into the groups dealings with fans, fame, and competing banks.

Halfway Home, the story of her trip to Japan by Christine Mari Inzer, a 17 year old senior at Connecticut’s Darien High School, is described as “a graphic novel” for younger readers, ages 12 and up. It features not only her drawings but photos of her taken during the trip, so it is more a memoir or a story by someone who has lived every minute of it ($11.95, Naruhodo Press, softcover). Indeed, the introduction says it is the story of her summer in 2013 when she spent eight weeks in Japan visiting her grandparents and getting reacquainted with her birthplace. Her Japanese mother is married to an American. Suffice to say it will prove very entertaining to a young reader and particularly to Asian-American youth.

Novels, Novels, Novels

The Drum Tower by Farnoosh Moshiri ($25.95, Black Heron Press) is his fourth work of fiction and it has already won an award as well as being nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award. It is a story narrated by a 16-year-old girl, depicting the fall of Drum Tower, the house of a family descended from generations of War Ministers to the rules of Iran. Peopled by interesting characters, it chronicles the early days of the Islamic Revolution that occurred in 1979 and overthrew the shah. We become witnesses to the competition of the competing factions and the rise of the Revolutionary Guard, along with chaos and murder in the streets of Tehran, as well as the arrests and executions of members of her family. In many ways, this provides a far more graphic look at what occurred than just a straight history as you join the narrator trapped in a labyrinth of family history and the turmoil of the revolution that affects current events. Superbly written, I am happy to recommend it.

Livingston Press is part of the University of West Alabama and over the years I have received some interesting fiction from them. The latest is A Light Like Ida Lupino by W.C. Bamberger ($30.00 hardcover, $17.95 softcover). The main character, Lincoln Heath, has done something unforgiveable and as the novel begins he has returned to the northern Michigan peninsula where the event occurred in order to live near his grandmother and help her struggle to keep her financially-troubled cherry orchard survive being gobbled up by upscale vintners or condo builders. It is not a pleasant place made moreso by the fact that many still living there recall what happened and despise Lincoln. He’s not looking for forgiveness, but to find a way to restore the emotional spectrum he has lost. Suffice to say this is not your usual story that has any predictability to it. As such readers will find themselves wanting to see how it unwinds. The same publisher has another novel, Dark Road, Dead End ($31.00 hardcover, $17.95 softcover) by Philip Ciofarri that looks at the trade in exotic and endangered species, a multi-billion dollar industry. Reportedly it is the world’s third largest organized crime after narcotics and arms running. The story is told through the eyes of Walter Morrison who works undercover for the U.S. Customs Service. It’s not long after he arrives in town that he sees evidence of wildlife smuggling. The wildlife is supplied to pet stores, private hunt clubs, wildlife safari parks and even “respectable” zoos. As he delves into it, someone at his own agency has put out the word about him, putting his life at risk. Here again, a novel provides considerable insight within the fictional context.

Those who enjoy historical novels will enjoy The Oblate’s Confession by William Peak ($25.99, Secant Publishing) that takes them back to the dark ages in England. A warrior gives his son to a monastery that rides the border between two rival Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and, growing up in a land wracked by war and plague, the boy learns of the oath that binds him to the church and which forces a cruel choice on him. To love one father, the one of his birth or the bishop for whom he prays daily, he must betray another, he is forced to make a decision that shatters his world and haunts him. History provides us with Little Miss Sure Shot: Annie Oakley’s World by Jeffrey Marshall ($8.95, available from, softcover and ebook edition). Famed as a star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, she was catapulted to international fame in the late 1880s by virtue of her firearms skills. While Hollywood has portrayed her as a young woman in “Annie Get Your Gun”, she actually was a rather prim and religious woman with a 50-year marriage to Frank Butler. Her legend lives on to today and the reality portrayed in this novel will have you admiring her in this breezy, easy read.

For those who enjoy a traditional mystery, there’s E. Michael Helm’s Deadly Ruse: A Mac McClellan Mystery ($15.95, Seventh Street Books, softcover) that begins when Mac’s girlfriend, Kate Bell, thinks she has seen a ghost. Wes Harrison, Kate’s former boyfriend, supposedly perished twelve years earlier in a boating accident, but she is sure that the man she spotted in a crowded theatre lobby is Wes. Being a private investigator, Mac begins to look into what happened and what emerges is a story of drug deals and, when Mac and Kate barely escape a murder attempt, he knows he’s on the right track. It is a very entertaining, tightly written story.

That’s it for December. As we bid 2014 goodbye, we can look forward to a new year filled with great fiction and non-fiction. is the place to visit each month to learn about them. Tell your book loving friends, family and coworkers. And come back in January!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Bookviews - November 2014

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

If you have been having problems figuring out what is going on in Syria, then I recommend you read Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect by Reese Erlich ($25.00, Prometheus Books).  What began as a civil war to remove Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator and son of the previous one, turned into conflict that pitted a number of different groups against one another and against ISIS, an offshoot of al Qaeda that has since seized a swath of northern Syria and Iraq, declaring itself the Islamic State. Erlich has reported from the Middle East for many years and knows all those involved. He provides a useful history of events that began with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I and the subsequent creation of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon as England and France divided up the area as colonial possession only nominally ruled by local sheiks. The Syrian people, largely secular, have been caught in between the Assad forces that those seeking to oust him. The result has been a bloodbath in which some 900,000 have died and two million or more have fled Syria to neighboring nations. Naturally, powers like Russia and Iran have wanted to play a role, supporting Assad, while the U.S. lined up with the free Syrian forces. While Erlich brings politically liberal point of view to the text, he does so while also providing a useful explanation of what is occurring and why.

November is a political month thanks to the midterm elections, so I am happy to report that there’s a book for conservatives—women in particular—by Miriam Weaver and Amy Jo Clark, Right for a Reason: Life, Liberty, and a Crapload of Common Sense ($26.95, Sentinel, an imprint of the Penguin Group) that puts aside the usual ultra-serious examination of the differences between conservatives and liberals and defends conservatism with a heaping of humor and straight talk. In that regard it is very refreshing. The authors started a website, in 2009 and it became a very popular site for all the issues that conservatives grapple with. The authors are unapologetic about believing that America is an exceptional nation, unhappy with the way schools and universities preach a liberal doctrine replete with political correctness. They don’t look at people in terms of their race or gender and have a problem with those who do. It’s a relatively short book, but a breath of fresh air and a reminder of the values that conservatives hold despite the lies told about them as bigots, waging “a war on women”, and other inanities that are repeated endlessly in the media.

We tend to take for granted the fiction that has transformed America by their impact on the generations that have read them. In The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books Azar Nafisi examines her favorites, Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, Sinclair Lewis’s “Babbitt”, Carson McCuller’s “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”, plus—despite the book’s title—James Baldwin’s “Another Country.”  Nafisi became famous a decade ago when her book, “Reading Lolita in Tehran” was published. She told how, despite Iranian morality squads and even executions, she taught American literature to her sometimes skeptical students in iran. The book became a bestseller with a million copies in print. She became an American citizen in 2008 and is now a fellow at Johns Hopkins University of Advanced International Studies. This is a woman who has deeply pondered what it means to be an America? Why are the values of American art, music, and literature so evidently at odds with the nation’s politics? Is America founded as much on heartbreak as on hope? Blending memoir and polemic with close readings of the books she has selected, she seeks answers to those any a host of other questions. In doing so she has written a book that invites the reader into the “Republic of the Imagination”, a country that has no borders, one in which the real villain is conformity, and the only passport to entry is a free mind and a willingness to dream.

I have seen many cookbooks over the years and have wondered why few. If any, were written exclusively for men who like to cook or want to learn how. Tastosterone: The Best Cookbook for Men by Debra Levy Picard ($39.95/$14.99, hardcover and Kindle, DLP Enterprises) is not only filled with lots of delicious recipes, but also the kind of instructions that cookbook authors tend to assume the reader already knows. I can’t say this is “the best”, but I can say, given its specific audience of readers—men—it surely fulfills its mission. It does not assume that the recipes are super simple to prepare or that men would not be interested in a wide variety of dishes to tempt the palate. Each one comes with a shopping list of elements needed to prepare dishes ranging from lasagna to veal Milanese. Each recipe comes with estimated time of preparation and how many servings it provides; good, useful information. This would make a great Christmas gift for the man who wants to enjoy cooking and baking.

Throughout the year Bookviews receives books that don’t fit into any category and most surely Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Covers ($24.95, Quirk Books) fits that description. Margaret C. Sullivan loves everything Austen and is the founder of and has authored “The Jane Austen Handbook.” This book is filled with the cover art of her books from the years, 1811 to 1818 when she was published. When she died suddenly in 1817 her work almost slipped into obscurity, but publisher Richard Brankley recognized that there was still an audience for it. Since then publishers have worked overtime to produce editions of her novels and film adaptations have introduced it to new generations. If you are one of those fans or know someone who is, this book would make an idea Christmas gift.

Memoirs and Autobiographies

Those of us who grew up enjoying “Happy Days” on television, will especially enjoy Anson Williams delightful autobiography, Singing to a Bulldog ($14.99, Reader’s Digest). I have read many autobiographies, but rarely with the enjoyment of Williams’. Throughout the book he tells us of the advice he received as a young boy from an older African-American worker, Willie, in a department store where they both swept the floors. His parents were an unhappy argumentative couple who he left behind at an early age, harboring a dream of becoming an actor and singer. Along the way to the fame he would achieve, it was Willie’s advice that was a constant guide to his behavior, advising him to pursue his dreams, remain humble, and to give back to others as his success would permit over the years. In addition to his years on “Happy Days” he would become a successful director, writer, producer and entrepreneur. He would also meet some of the most famous people in show business and others like Ronald Reagan. Every page is filled with the events and personalities that helped him and his appreciation for them, as well as the friendships he enjoyed with his fellow “Happy Days” performers. Married with five daughters, this is a life well lived and an inspiration to the readers of his autobiography.

As this is written, a Missouri police officer who killed a young, black man in self-defense has endured a firestorm of attacks that have also generated riots in Ferguson. In time the facts will exonerate him and Michael Cover’s memoir Behind the Badge: A Policeman’s Legacy ($18.99, self-published, softcover) of his 24 years as a police officer in Southern California provides an excellent insight to the reality of being a police officer, one who must constantly operate in the midst of uncertainty, deal with gangs, the mentally deranged, and the drug crazed. They face knives, chemicals, and betrayal on the job as they daily fight criminals, bureaucracy, and, as we have seen, negative stereotypes. I have known a number of police officers and to a man (or woman) they go into the profession with a desire to help people. His book is well worth reading, particularly in a time when police officers now find themselves under attack by Islamic fanatics in addition to the others that would harm them.

The criminal world is one which we all live, fearful of becoming its victims, and Katarina Rosenblatt, Ph.D., tells of her horrendous youth and survival of having been lured into child prostitution as part of a sex trade that exists in the shadows of society. Recruited while staying with her family at a hotel in Miami Beach, she was already a lonely and abused young girl who simply yearned to be loved. For years afterward, she endured a cycle of false friendships, threats, drugs, and violence. As she points out, this could happen to any child. She tells her story in Stolen ($14.95, Revell, softcover) and was saved after she heard Billy Graham preach that God would never forsake her. She escaped her fate and went on to earn a Ph.D. in conflict analysis and resolutions, and a law degree in intercultural human rights. Today she works with law enforcement agencies that include the FBI and Homeland Security as she focuses on the prevention and rescuing of the victims of the sexual slave trade. This memoir is well worth reading.

Reading History

I love reading history and, in particular, American history. While we are all familiar with the names of the Founding Fathers, Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Monroe and Madison, one man who played an extraordinary role in defending the Constitution is finally given his rightful honors in Harlow Giles Unger’s book, John Marshall: The Chief Justice Who Save the Nation ($27.99, Da Capo Press). Rarely mentioned in the history books that are used in our schools, Marshall’s life is a reflection of the turmoil that accompanied the Revolution in which he fought with distinction, followed by the his biggest battle, to protect and assert the role of the federal government and the Constitution that defined its powers and limits. He begins with the death of George Washington in 1800, the man who had led the fledgling nation through the long Revolution and then with two terms as its first President. As Unger says of the young Union, “they lost their way.” Indeed, “Chaos engulfed the land as surviving Founding Fathers…turned on each other as they clawed at Washington’s fallen mantle.” That’s the dramatic beginning of a book that will give you a very different view of the men we hold in such great honor because with the exception of those who clung closely to the Constitution, others like Jefferson were so power-hungry, they would have tossed it overboard if Marshall had not been appointed Chief Justice by John Adams who followed Washington as President. The Supreme Court rendered decisions in the nation’s earliest years that defined the powers of the federal government and those of the states. It protected contracts. And, what Marshall feared came true; the southern states declared secession and a brutal Civil War threatened the republic. Thanks in great part to Marshall and his Court, the Constitution sustains the oldest system of self-government in the history of man. This is a great book that I heartily recommend to everyone.

Thomas Jefferson is one of the nation’s iconic founders and while there have been many books about his life, M. Andrew Holowchak has written Thomas Jefferson: Uncovering His Unique Philosophy and Vision ($26.00/$12.99, Prometheus Books, hardcover and Ebook), delving deeply into Jefferson’s writings to reveal an intensely curious Enlightenment thinker with a well-constructed, people-sympathetic, and consistent philosophy. Holowchak has written a number of other books about Jefferson and his knowledge of the man is amply on display as he examines Jefferson who was himself greatly influenced by Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and John Locke. This book looks at Jefferson’s views on human nature, morality, education, and the liberalism he brought to bear in his service to the nation. Jefferson was most surely a man of letters and his gifted writings helped shape the new nation.

I particularly enjoy reading about people who changed history because of a dream they had and most certainly that describes Golda Meir, one of the pioneers of the state of Israel and one of its prime ministers. Ann Atkins has written a very readable biography, Golda Meir--True Grit, ($14.95, Flash History Press, softcover) of this remarkable woman who, from very early in her life, concluded that the Zionist dream of a nation where Jews could be free of the prejudice and oppression they faced in the world, could be made a reality. She was a woman of remarkable capabilities who earned the respect of all who heard her speak or dealt with her. Not only did she help bring about the creation of Israel in 1947, she was instrumental in securing the funds needed to defend it and for years after she held a number of key roles. She is an inspiration and I would surely recommend this autobiography to anyone who wants to learn about her and Israel.

For those of the era in which Playboy magazine, which debuted in 1953, became an empire of Playboy clubs around the U.S. and the world, Playboy on Stage: A History of the World’s Sexiest Nightclubs by Patty Farmer with contributions by Will Friedwald ($24.95, Beaufort Books) is a special treat, especially like myself, who can recall visiting the clubs and being entertained by some of the greatest musical and comedic talent of those days. At the height of their popularity in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, the clubs were collectively the largest employers of talent in the nation. To his credit, Hugh Hefner and his staff were colorblind welcoming African American starts and furthering both civil rights and gender equality. The original club was in Chicago, but it was soon joined by venues in Miami, New Orleans and New York, and other global cities. Who could ever forget the lovely “bunnies” that served food and drinks? Not me. The book tells the story of clubs in the words of many of the artists, musicians, singers, and comedians, as well as those behind the scene. This is history that is, dare I say, very entertaining.

Food for the Mind and Body

My Mother taught gourmet cooking for three decades and wrote a number of cookbooks, so food was always a topic in our home where dinner was always an adventure. For others who enjoy the topic, I can recommend Best Food Writing 2014, edited by Holly Hughes who has edited this series ($15.00, Da Capo Press, softcover) since 2000. Some of its articles discuss the latest food trends, minus the hype, such as the trend toward spicy foods and the heightened popularity of bacon. Fifty writers have their say in this edition and there’s plenty to enjoy in it.

Like a lot of Americans, I had no idea what gluten was or that it caused thousands of children and adults the distress of health-related problems. Dr. Alessio Fasano is one of the world‘s leading authorities on gluten and celiac disease and in Gluten Freedom ($24.95, Wiley) he presents the facts about what gluten does, whom it affects, and what can be done for the millions of Americans, most of them undiagnosed, with celiac disease. Dr. Fasano is the founder and director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital and a visiting professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. He notes that gluten intolerance hadn't even been identified as recently as twenty years ago, nor recognized by either the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the National Institute of Health. “We’ve made a lot of progress in the last ten years,” writes Dr. Fasano.  His book provides a clear, concise roadmap for understanding why gluten does what it does and what can be done about it. Celiac disease is a genetic disorder affecting children and adults; even the slightest bit of gluten can set off an autoimmune reaction, one that can eventually lead to the complete destruction of part of the small intestine. If you suspect you or someone you know might have Celiac disease, this is definitely the book to read.

Sex, Love and DNA: What Molecular Biology Teaches Us About Being Human ($17.77, softcover/$9.99 Kindle, Olingo Press, Foster City, CA)  is one of those titles that is hard to resist even it may sound a bit intimidating. Written by Peter Schattner, a member of the Biomolecular Engineering Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, it is written for non-scientists. Its chapters focus on age-old questions such as “What is Love?”, “What is Sex?”, and “What Makes Some People So Smart?”  This is what is often called popular science and we are fortunate that this particular science, as provided by Schattner, will astound and entertain you far more than any science fiction might. It is a fascinating journey into the biology of our cells as the author explains how proteins and DNA affect our lives. He should know. He is a scientist, educator and writer with thirty years’ experience in molecular biology, biomedical instrumentation, and physics. This book explores the mysteries of being human and I heartily recommend it.

Science Stuff

Richard Grossinger first published The Night Sky: Soul and Cosmos in 1981, updating it in 1988 and again this year ($29.95, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, softcover) and if you have an interest in astronomy, this massive 800-plus page volume will pretty much tell you everything you ever wanted to know. Where he found the time is a mystery given the fact that he has written more than twenty other books and edited eight others. Grossinger believes that “science is telling us half or less of what it is doing.”  He has devoted his life to investigating four main topics, medicine, cosmology, embryology, and consciousness. I would have been exhausted just investigating one of them! “The universe that science can’t get out is the university of our being, e.g., our basis as cosmic witnesses…”  So, if you have ever looked up at the night sky with its countless stars and wondered what was out there and how you relate to it this book will surely provide some profound answers.

Getting Down to Business

What is often forgotten about America and what makes it truly exceptional is the world of opportunity it offers to those willing to work hard to make their dreams come true. That is the message of Bill McDermott’s Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office, written with Joanne Gordon ($28.00. Simon and Schuster). These days McDermott is the CEO of SAP, the largest business software company in the world. It’s a long way from working-class Long Island where he had traded three hourly-wage jobs to work at a corner deli. When its owner decided to sell the story, McDermott was still in high school, but he bought it with a $7,000 loan, learning how to serve customers, outshine competitors, and growing his small business. Using the deli’s profits to pay for college, he moved on to selling copiers door-to-door in New York City for Xerox in the 1980s. Not surprisingly he became a top salesman and Xerox’s youngest ever corporate officer. SAP was a languishing unit and he was named its president. He would lead it to nearly triple software revenues, outpace the company’s overall growth, and achieve market leadership. Inspiring? You bet! Worth reading? You bet!  

The world of business is filled with fascinating personalities and their stories. One of them was Albert Champion, the founder of AC Delco and Champion Spark Plug. He would become a tycoon investing in what was there the new and revolutionary auto industry when Chevrolet and General Motors, among others, were just beginning. Peter Joffre Nye has captured his life in The Fast Times of Albert Champion: From Record-Setting Racer to Dashing Tycoon, an Untold Story of Speed, Success, and Betrayal ($26.00 Prometheus Books).  Champion rose from poverty in Paris to great wealth and fame in both his native France and the United States. As a bicycle racer, he set more than a hundred world records. He used his prize money to invest in an industry that would make the U.S. a world leader in automobile manufacturing. He also famous for many dalliances and his final love triangle resulted in his death under mysterious circumstances. This one is fun to read from start to finish.

No More Business as Usual by Chutisa and Steven Bowman ($24.99, Access Consciousness Publishing, softcover), a husband and wife team who currently advise more than 440 organizations a year, along with a thousand CEOs and board chairs at international companies, is definitely unusual because it departs from the usual books on the subject of business success. They describe it as a “paradigm-changing book that presents a system and tools for consciously generating different possibilities” to grow a business. They believe they have found the underlying reasons why leaders succeed and fail. In short, they believe that being able to see different possibilities instead of concentrating on what the competition is doing opens doors to success. I have seen comparable books on this topic, but this one has merit too.

Books About Christmas

This is the time of year when new editions and versions of Christmas-related books arrive. For a younger generation they provide their first introduction and for older generations they can be gifts to the younger that will be long remembered.

Penguin Books offers “classics” and this year they have five, all priced $16.00, that are a little library of Christmas classics. They are A Merry Christmas & Other Christmas Stories by Louisa May Alcott, The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol, The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman, Christmas at Thompson Hall & Other Christmas Stories by Anthony Trollope, and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. At 5 inches wide and seven-and-a-half long, they would be easy for a youngster to hold while reading and easy to stuff into a Christmas stocking. For anyone who loves this holiday, they are a small treasure.

A Christmas Carol has also been published by Running Press, a member of the Perseus Group under its “Steampunk” imprint ($18.95). It also includes “A Christmas Tree” and “The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton.” This edition is beautifully illustrated by Zdenko Basic. It would make an excellent gift for anyone of any age, but the younger reader in particular will enjoy it. From Carlo Devito comes Inventing Scrooge: The Incredible True Story Behind Dicken’s Legendary A Christmas Carol ($22.99, Cider Mill Press). Devito has delved into the story of the classic from when it was conceived by Dickens on a train ride to Manchester in October 1843. He would write to his wife, “I can never write with effect…until I have become so excited with my subject that I cannot leave off.”  That’s a good description of the way this now classic Christmas tale grips a new reader of it. The literary story behind it is explored and Devito says he has uncovered the true identity of Ebenezer Scrooge. Indeed, the Carol is highly autobiographical, utilizing his youth and his family’s earliest travails.

A parent’s crazed efforts to prove to his 4-year-old that Santa is real is the crux of a curious story, Real Santa by William Hazelgrove ($29.95, hardcover; $16.95 softcover, $7.99 Ebook,  Koehlerbooks) George Kronenfelt is an unemployed engineer who is intent on keeping his daughter’s belief in Santa intact. When she tells him that the only way she will believe in Santa is if she can videotape him and post it to YouTube. George realizes he must become the real Santa and from then on we are entertained by his efforts to find reindeer, hire a broken down movie director, and fulfill his promise becomes a funny, heartwarming story of parenthood gone awry as keeping a child happy dominates everything else for a while.

Our Furry Friends

Over the years Lissa Warren has sent me many books as the director of publicity at Da Capo Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group. We’ve never met, but I most surely recognized her name as the author of The Good Luck Cat: How a Cat Saved a Family and a Family Saved a Cat ($21.95, Globe Pequot Press). She writes of Ting, a seven-pound Korat who was brought into the family as a companion for her father while his wife and daughter were at work. Ting quickly endeared herself. In late 2008 Lissa’s father died of a heart attack and less than a year later Ting was diagnosed with a potentially fatal heart condition. They made the decision to have a human pacemaker implanted, a rare procedure to be sure but they were determined not to lose their beloved gray cat. If the memoir ended with that, relating the grief and hope that they had all shared, it would be a testament to the close relationships we share with our pets, but Lissa received her own diagnosis, multiple sclerosis, There is no cure, but Lissa thinks Ting has taught her how to cope and has a remarkable, positive attitude. MS has taught her how others love her, including Ting. Anyone who shares their life with a family cat will absolutely love this book and be inspired by it.

Ask Anna: Advice for the Furry and Forlorn by Dean Koontz and his dog Anna ($20.00, Center Street) is a pure delight. Koontz is one of the most successful novelists of our time with more than 450 million copies in print, in 36 languages, 14 of which have been number one on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list. Anna is identified as an advice columnist for dogs. This is her first book. It is a marvelously funny, entertaining book that is further enhanced by the wonderful photos by Vincent Remini. Koontz introduces the book saying he had noticed that other dogs in the neighborhood seemed to consult with Anna, a Golden Retriever. Then he noticed she appeared to be having conversations as well with all sorts of people they encountered in their daily life. Then, if you can believe this, he discovered she had “secretly acquired her own computer and was engaged in the dispensing if advice online to all manner of species.” Suffice to say that the advice is worth a good nod of its worth on every page and more than a few laughs. A great gift for sure.

Novels, Novels, Novels

I like when a novelist can turn history into romance or drama and Renee Rosen does both in What the Lady Wants ($15.00, New American Library, softcover) with a story that begins with the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 which left the city in a state of destruction and depression. With typical American vigor, men of wealth saw a greater future for the city and began building department stores and other enterprises that led to the city hosting the World’s Fair in 1893. On the night of the fire, 17-year-old Delia Spencer watched as the flames consumed her beloved hometown and on that same night she met a man named Marshall Field. He built one of the department stores with the motto “Give the lady what she wants” and Delia fell in love with him. Behind the success and the opulent life style of his fellow entrepreneurs, Potter Palmer and George Pullman, their private lives were riddled with scandal and heartbreak. Delia and Marshall first turn to each other out of loneliness in their separately ruined marriages, but their love deepens and they stand together despite ostracism in an age of devastation and opportunity. Moving forward to modern times, the city is Dubai and it is the setting for Kay Tejani’s debut novel, Power and Passion, ($9.90, Global Impact Publishers, softcover). The novel encompasses three women living in a world of extreme wealth, filled with seven star hotels, man-made islands, and even glass-enclosed ski slopes. Sara Shariff had come to Dubai with her Muslim parents from Canada three years earlier and is working as the events coordinator for the Middle East section of the Special Olympics. Her fiancĂ©, a non-Muslim real estate executive from the United Kingdom suggests she run a gala on a grand scale to raise money. She is joined by Joan Harrison who has been running successful charity events for years and by her best friend, Maryam. All is going well under a devastating lie changes the course of Sara’s life, putting everything she is doing in jeopardy. The author knows the city well, having lived there for many years. She brings an authenticity to the story that women readers in particular will enjoy.

Mysteries and suspense novels just keep coming. Here are some of the latest softcovers.

Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek—A Samuel Craddock Mystery by Terry Shames ($15.95, Seventh Street Books) After Jarrett Creek went bankrupt and Gary Dellmore, heir apparent to the main bank is dead, The retired Craddock is asked to return as police chief. Dellmore was known to have a roving eye despite his marriage and Craddock wonders whether a husband or father of those women thought he should be eliminated? What he discovers is that Dellmore had a record of bad business investments including the loan he took that brought about the bankruptcy. The more he digs, the uglier the story becomes. Also from Seventh Street Books, Black Karma: A White Ginger Novel by Thatcher Robinson ($15.95) in which Bai Jiang, San Francisco’s best known souxun—people finder—is hired to track down the mysterious Daniel Chen. Police inspector Kelly suspects Chen of being involved in a botched drug heist that resulted in the death of an officer. Bai has her own suspicions. She thinks the police just want to see Chen dead. In the course of the investigation, she finds herself caught between international intelligence agencies and merchants of war, who deal in death, drugs, and high-jacked information. There’s intrigue aplenty here.

My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni ($15.95, Thomas & Mercer) will add to his fame as the author of bestselling legal thrillers. In this novel Dugoni returns with a powerful and poignant story of a homicide detective determined to avenge the murder of his beloved younger sister. Seattle cop Tracy Crosswhite was a high school chemistry teacher when her teenaged sister Sarah disappeared one night on her way home to their small town of Cedar Grove. A young ex-con, Edmund House, was quickly tried and convicted. Twenty years later and a career change later, Tracy has dedicated her life to questioning whether the right man went to jail. When Sarah’s remains are uncovered from a newly-exposed lake bed, new evidence seems to support Tracy’s theory. Somewhere in Cedar Grove is a killer. Blame: A Casey Portman Novel by Linda Rocker ($14.95, Wheatmark) is enhanced by the fact that Ms. Rocker worked more than 35 years as a trial lawyer and judge in Ohio’s highest trial court. Lawers turned novelists is becoming a trend, but it helps if they’re good at it and Ms. Rocker is as she tells the story of a young man who dies of a drug overdose and his mother is looking for someone to blame. She embarks on an obsessive crusade to destroy the pain doctor who gave her only son the pills the killed him. The Palm Beach Courthouse and an ambitious prosecutor become the tools of her revenge. Casey Portman, the judge’s bailiff, is dealing with her love for a handsome sheriff, but the ripple effects of the young man’s death and a trial of a respected neurosurgeon fills this story with plenty of twists and turns, that will keep you reading it. Lastly, Unrelenting Nightmare by Stan Yocum ($20.95, iUniverse) follows a virtual reality software developer on the cusp of industry domination as he navigates a deadly cat-and-mouse game with an international assassin hired by his fierce competitor. The author brings both his theatre background and extensive background in the business world in the writing of this novel as he tackles the prevalence of violence and the impact of virtual reality on youth.

That’s it for November! Come back next month as we look at some ideal books for Christmas gifts and just good reading. Tell your book-loving friends, family, and co-workers about Happy Thanksgiving!